By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
You don’t have to look farther than your own neighborhood or city to see amazing things happening for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. Here is a list of people who are working hard or who have worked hard (or both!) to make our immediate world a better place. <!–more–>
10. Getty and Cobalt fill a void left by Amazon
This year, the Union Station building came alive with people again. After mega-company Amazon.com left the space near the International District for a new home in Lake Union in 2010, residents and local businesses worried what it would mean for the area.
In December 2010, Cobalt Group, Inc., moved into the vacated space. In summer 2011, global stock photo agency Getty started moving in, too.
Today, the building is 80-percent occupied by Getty. Bring on the lunch crowds.
9. Interim UW President Phyllis Wise heads to Illinois
This year, University of Washington Interim President Phyllis Wise announced that she was leaving the university for a top position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), where she broke the glass ceiling again.
Wise was the first official female president and first Asian American president of the University of Washington.
8. Bharat Shyam is state’s CIO
On Nov. 14, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed Bharat Shyam as the state’s chief information officer. Shyam began his career at Microsoft in 1993 as a software design engineer, developing early prototypes for one of the nation’s first smartphones.
He later became a lead software engineer for Internet Explorer and Windows 98 and 2000.
On Oct. 1, the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) became an official part of the restructured Office of Financial Management and Washington state government. The OCIO’s unique role in state government is to create clarity and alignment for IT investments.
7. Rich Cho bounces back
On June 13, it was announced that Burmese American Rich Cho would take over as general manager (GM) of the Charlotte Bobcats, only the third GM in its history. Cho reports to famed former NBA player Michael Jordan, who is the majority owner of the team.
Cho was abruptly fired from the Trail Blazers on May 23 after about 11 months as its GM. This was apparently due to chemistry problems. He was the first Asian American GM in major league sports.
Cho is a Northwest native. He was born in Myanmar and immigrated to the United States in 1968, when he was 3 years old. His family settled in Federal Way, and Cho attended Decatur High School.
He has an engineering degree from Washington State University and a law degree from Pepperdine University Law School.
6. Steven Gonzalez is appointed to Washington State Supreme Court
Okay, so Gonzalez is not an API, but he is an honorary API. He earned his Bachelor of Arts with honors in East Asian Studies from Pitzer College and his Juris Doctor from U.C. Berkeley School of Law (Boalt Hall). Beyond that, he studied extensively in Japan and speaks Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish — in addition to English.
On Nov. 15, Gov. Chris Gregoire appointed him to serve as one of nine justices on the Washington State Supreme Court. He is the second Latino ever in this prestigious position.
5. Cindy Ryu becomes first Korean American woman to serve in Washington’s legislature
This year, Cindy Ryu took the oath of office and officially became the state representative for the 32nd Legislative District, which includes Shoreline, Kenmore, Edmonds, and other communities in North King and South Snohomish Counties.
Ryu became the first Korean American woman ever to serve in the Washington State Legislature.
This is the second time Ryu has set a political milestone. In 2006, she became the first female Korean American mayor in the United States, when she was elected mayor of Shoreline.
4. Construction FINALLY begins on new Seattle Goodwill building
When the $300 million Dearborn Street Project was abandoned in 2009, Seattle Goodwill executives realized they would have to take matters into their own hands.
They decided to build their own $14 million, three-story, 48,000-square-foot building, which is under construction right now. The new building will increase Seattle Goodwill’s capacity and will allow it to provide more free services to those seeking the organization’s help.
During the last fiscal year, which ended on June 30, Seattle Goodwill served 3,488 people at its nine job-training centers in Washington state. The total number of people enrolled in its adult basic education class was 8,136.
3. WWII vets gets highest honor
This year, 33 Japanese American veterans who fought in World War II from Washington state joined many others across the country. They were each honored with the highest civilian award in the United States — the Congressional Gold Medal. The ceremony took place in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center’s Emancipation Hall.
The ceremony honored members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Services of the United States Army. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was one of the most decorated units in military history, bringing home 21 Congressional Medals of Honor, 33 Distinguished Service Crosses, 559 Silver Stars, 22 Legions of Merit, 4,000 Bronze Stars, and 9,846 Purple Hearts.
2. Ed Lee becomes first Asian American mayor of San Francisco
Why would San Francisco’s mayor be on this list? Because Lee was born in a Seattle hospital and spent his formative years growing up in Seattle’s Beacon Hill.
In 2010, after San Francisco’s former mayor Gavin Newsom stepped down to take the post of lieutenant governor, Lee was named as interim mayor by the city council. Lee decided to run for the permanent post, a decision that was controversial for many. He won in the 2011 election, with 30.72 percent of the vote.
“I am able to make a link to the Asian communities,” Lee has said. “Being mayor helps them to know that they no longer are second-class citizens.”
1. Gary Locke becomes U.S. Ambassador to China
Are you already tired of reading about Gary Locke on these lists? No worries, this blurb will be brief.
On July 27, former Washington state governor and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke became the first American who is ethnically Chinese to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, breaking yet another glass ceiling. Go Locke! (end)
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.